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Read Niren Tolsi’s Full Ruth First Memorial Lecture: ‘Fire and Media: Towards a New South African Journalism’

He used fire (as a metaphor) and actual reporting on fire on SA newspapers and websites to interrogate the state of journalism in the country.

Award-winning South African journalist and editor Niren Tolsi delivered the 15th Annual Ruth First Memorial Lecture at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) last night. His paper, titled Fire and Media: Towards a New South African Journalism, focused on the state of South African media.


Tolsi used fire (as a metaphor) and actual reporting on fire on SA newspapers and websites to interrogate the state of journalism in the country. For instance, he made a contrast between two reports about fire that revealed how SA media's reporting is biased towards a certain group of the population.

A formula from @NirenTolsi News vitality = social media X outrage + attention. #ruthfirstpic.twitter.com/hN6unkc1iM

In one report, two black children were burned, and he notes the scantiness of the reports compared to the detail on reports about a fire incident that killed a white family.

In the paper, he also questions if journalists are doing what they are supposed to, for instance giving a voice to the voiceless. He questions their credibility and the reliance on social media to determine what gets reported on, among other things.

An excerpt:

"Is this what journalists do in South Africa in 2018? Are we, as the cliché goes, writing history's first draft? If so, are we writing for future generations and what will their interest in the news be — if any? And in the present, for whose interest do we write the news? Are we mindful of the agendas of our sources? Do we report without fear or favour? Do we speak truth to power regardless of whether it is white capital or "black government"? Do we place a microphone to the mouths of those who are voiceless and extend the public sphere to the marginalised?"

Just like his journalistic work, the lecture is lyrical, critical and erudite.

The Ruth First Memorial Lecture honors Ruth First, a Wits graduate, journalist, activist, researcher, and intellectual. She was killed by a letter-bomb parcel sent by the apartheid government to her office at Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique on 17 August 1982. The Ruth First Memorial Lecture is now known as a podium for some of South Africa's journalists to share new thought on the South African discourse.

Read Niren Tolsi's Ruth First Memorial Lecture here.

Image by @signaturebyKam

Listen: Mádé Kuti Pleas For 'No More Wars' In Latest Single

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter blends easy listening with a powerful message in his first drop of 2022 so far.

Nigerian musician Mádé Kuti has released his first single of the year, and it comes with an important message.

The latest of the Kuti dynasty to break into the music scene, Grammy-award nominated Mádé releases his new single 'No More Wars', via Partisan Records. The groovy track is the first in a series of singles the singer will be releasing before the end of the year. It's the first time we've heard from Kuti since he joined his father, world-renowned Afrobeat ambassador Femi Kuti, on their joint venture 'Legacy +'.

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“I would like to discuss my forthcoming album only, nothing else. That is where my headspace right now.”

Nigerian superstar Fireboy DML draws up the rules of engagement as soon as we get on a Zoom call. The notoriously reticent singer, fresh from enjoying the biggest year of his musical career, powered by the international breakthrough of his single "Peru," is checking in from London. The city has become somewhat of a second home for him of late and it is here that Fireboy is ensconced while getting ready to kick off promotional activities for his third studio album, Playboy, which arrived last Friday.

The 14-track album comes almost two years after Fireboy’s last pop effort, Apollo ,which in turn was released about nine months after his stellar debut, Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps. On Playboy, Fireboy moves further away from his previous records and embraces the mainstream afrobeats sound hinted in recent hits like "Peru" and "Bandana," with newbie Asake.

He tells OkayAfrica about putting the album together below.

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Culture
Image courtesy of the artist

Spotlight: NK Is The Future and Star of His Own Show

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ghanaian digital artist NK. The self-proclaimed Afrocentric visual artist's love for drawing and sketching at a young age pushed him to explore the many ways in which modern technology supports and advances creativity. Simply playing around with a popular photo editing app propelled the young artist into a world of self discovery, empowerment, and a keen understanding about how big the Universe we call home actually is. As the digital creative puts it, "I think my interest in space and what could exist outside the world we live in also had an impact on my desire to incorporate futuristic technology with cultural art." Armed with a keen interest in all things Afrofuturist, NK's futuristic eye has gained the teen artist recognition from some of his industry faves, too.

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Describe your background as an artist and the journey you have taken to get to where it is today.

I grew up with an interest in art and drawing. I loved to draw and sketch, usually with both pen and pencils, whatever was interesting around me. I would make compositions of items within my surroundings and paste them on the walls of my parent’s rooms. My interest in the digital world peaked around the ages of 14 and 15 -- I've always been intrigued by astronauts and futuristic technology. I started digital art in 2017 when I created 2D pieces on the PicsArt app on a phone at home. Eventually, I gained access to the Adobe Photoshop software.

Artists like David Alabo, Beeple, Basquiat, and Juan Carlos Ribas inspired me and also made me think of what I could achieve if I tried. I spent a lot of time watching tutorial videos and related content online to be able to develop my skill. Initially, I created my pieces by combining a number of stock images and online resources to create an entirely new fictional scene. Around early 2020 I had a creative block and was desperate to find new sources of inspiration. Over time I came to the realization that my inspiration surrounded me and that I shouldn’t have to force creativity. I did more research on Afrocentric art and stepped out of my comfort zone to create my first Afrocentric pieces, “Gateway to Paradise” and “Modernization”. These pieces attracted a lot of attention and also the smArt magazine which granted me my first interview and magazine feature opening the door to new relationships in the creative industry, various opportunities, and collaborations.

What are the central themes in your work?

My work is mainly centered around the expression of development in the Black experience and empowering African Culture. I try to factor in Afrofuturism and Afrocentrism in making my pieces whether it’s how my models are dressed, their accessories, or represented by items that surround them. My pieces are intended to put forward the message of creating brighter futures and realities where Africans thrive. This helps give my pieces in themselves an identity.

How did you decide on using a digital medium for your art?

Even though I do draw and sketch, I also feel very comfortable using digital software which to me offers endless possibilities. I believe that using digital media as an African artist helps bridge the gap between technology and cultural art, directly falling in line with my field of interest, Afrofuturism.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

The start of the pandemic in 2020 was devastating. A lot happened during that period. It was during the lockdown that I made the decision to transition into creating Afrocentric art. We were made to take a break from school, which freed up a lot of my time. I had the time to research, watch tutorials and practice more. It might have been one of the most defining years for me as an artist. It also granted me a larger audience as everyone was made to work from home. I actually learned a lot and worked hard during that period and this led to my work improving massively.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism’?

Afrofuturism is a theme I can really relate to as a young African. It's our responsibility to contribute to our development as a people. I think my interest in space and what could exist outside the world we live in also had an impact on my desire to incorporate futuristic technology with cultural art. I like to think of what we can achieve, the seemingly impossible things, and then I pour out those thoughts and ideas into my art and that is why I immediately fell in love with Afrofuturism. We are the future, the stars of our own show.

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories in your art?

The most dominant figure in my pieces is usually the black figure/model which usually stands out as the main subject. Regarding the backgrounds, I usually try to make a scene with colors to create a particular mood or in some of my pieces to complement the clothes of the model, usually African prints. They range from solid backgrounds to gradients and various sky textures. I use different cultural accessories both for beautification and also to provide that Afrocentric feel and message. I love to use various beads, bracelets, and traditional cloths with interesting textures to convey these messages of who we are as Africans and where we come from.


Artwork by NK

"Cultural Adornment"

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